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Big Picture Science
The Big Picture Science radio show and podcast engages the public with modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling. Science radio doesn't have to be dull. The only dry thing about our program is the humor.
Big Picture Science takes on big questions by interviewing leading researchers and weaving together their stories of discovery in a clever and off-kilter narrative style.
Monday, April 14, 2014 12:00am
ENCORE We all crave power: to run laptops, charge cell phones, and play Angry Birds. But if generating energy is easy, storing it is not. Remember when your computer conked out during that cross-country flight? Why can’t someone build a better battery?
Discover why battery design is stuck in the 1800s, and why updating it is key to future green transportation (not to mention more juice for your smartphone). Also, how to build a new type of solar cell that can turn sunlight directly into fuel at the pump.
Plus, force fields, fat cells and other storage systems. And: Shock lobster! Energy from crustaceans?
- Dan Lankford – Former CEO of three battery technology companies, and a managing director at Wavepoint Ventures
- Jackie Stephens – Biochemist at Louisiana State University
- Kevin MacVittie – Graduate student of chemistry, Clarkson University, New York
- Nate Lewis – Chemist, California Institute of Technology
- Alex Filippenko – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley
- Peter Williams – Physicist, San Francisco Bay Area
First released February 4, 2103.
Monday, April 7, 2014 12:00am
Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! The 25-year-old Web, along with the Internet and the personal computer, are among mankind’s greatest inventions. But back then, who knew?
A techno-writer reminisces about the early days of the WWW and says he didn’t think it would ever catch on.
Also, meet an inventor who claims his innovation will leave your laptop in the dust. Has quantum computing finally arrived?
Plus, why these inventions are not as transformative as other creative biggies of history: The plow. The printing press. And… the knot?
And, why scientific discoveries may beat out technology as the most revolutionary developments of all. A new result about the Big Bang may prove as important as germ theory and the double helix.
- Kevin Kelly – Senior maverick, Wired, author of What Technology Wants
- Eric Ladizinsky – Physicist, co-founder and the chief scientist of D-Wave Systems Palo Alto, California
- Aaron Gardner – Bakery manager, Hy-Vee Store, Chillicothe, Missouri
- George Dyson – Historian of technology, author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe and Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence
- Rob Shostak – Brother and founder of Vocera Communications, San Jose, California
- Jamie Bock – Physicist at the California Institute of Technology
Monday, March 31, 2014 12:00am
It’s hard to imagine the twists and turns of evolution that gave rise to Homo Sapiens. After all, it required geologic time, and the existence of many long-gone species that were once close relatives. That may be one reason why – according to a recent poll – one-third of all Americans reject the theory of evolution. They prefer to believe that humans and other living organisms have existed in their current form since the beginning of time.
But if you’ve ever been sick, you’ve been the victim of evolution on a very observable time scale. Nasty viruses and bacteria take full advantage of evolutionary forces to adapt to new hosts. And they can do it quickly.
Discover how comparing the deadly 1918 flu virus with variants today may help us prevent the next pandemic. Also, while antibiotic resistance is threatening to become a major health crisis, better understanding of how bacteria evolve their defenses against our drugs may help us out.
And the geneticist who sequenced the Neanderthal genome says yes, our hirsute neighbors co-mingled with humans.
It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!
- Svante Pääbo – Evolutionary geneticist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, author of Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
- Ann Reid – – Molecular biologist, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Oakland, California
- Martin Blaser – Microbiologist, New York University School of Medicine, member of the National Academy of Sciences, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
- Gautam Dantas – Pathologist, immunologist, Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, Washington University, Saint Louis
Monday, March 24, 2014 12:00am
ENCORE One plus one is two. But what’s the square root of 64, divided by 6 over 12?* Wait, don’t run for the hills! Math isn’t scary. It helps us describe and design our world, and can be easier to grasp than the straight edge of a protractor.
Discover how to walk through the city and number-crunch simultaneously using easy tips for estimating the number of bricks in a building or squirrels in the park. Plus, why our brains are wired for finger-counting … whether aliens would have calculators … and history’s most famous mathematical equations (after e=mc2).
*The answer is 16
- Ian Stewart – Emeritus professor of Mathematics, University of Warwick, U.K., author of In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World
- Michael Anderson – Psychologist and neuroscientist, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
- Keith Devlin – Mathematician and Director of the Human Sciences and Technology Advanced Research Institute, Stanford University
- John Adam – Mathematician, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, and author of X and the City: Modeling Aspects of Urban Life
Monday, March 17, 2014 12:00am
Sure you have a big brain; it’s the hallmark of Homo sapiens. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve cornered the market on intelligence. Admittedly, it’s difficult to say, since the very definition of the term is elusive. Depending on what we mean by intelligence, a certain aquatic mammal is not as smart as we thought (hint: rhymes with “caulpin”) … and your rhododendron may be a photosynthesizing Einstein.
And what I.Q. means for A.I. We may be building our brilliant successors.
- Laurance Doyle – Senior researcher, SETI Institute
- Justin Gregg – Animal behaviorist, The Dolphin Communication Project, author of Are Dolphins Really Smart?: The mammal behind the myth
- Michael Pollan – Journalist, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. His article, “The Intelligent Plant,” appeared in the December 23rd issue of The New Yorker
- Luke Muehlhauser – Executive Director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute